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Was Gill a successionist?

Discussion in 'Baptist History' started by rlvaughn, Jan 1, 2006.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
    Site Supporter

    Mar 20, 2001
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    I must profess that I have not been a great follower of Gill, except to know that if no other commentary mentioned something, Gill was sure to comment on it. Gill was not a "Landmark" Baptist, in that he believed in the church universal made up of all God's elect (e.g. see comments on Matt. 16:18). But his comments quoted below on Matthew 28:20 seem to require a succession of visible believers (not just an invisible church).
    Are there other comments/writings by Gill on the subject? Did he believe in a succession of truth through visible churches? Am a misreading him? If he did believe succession, would he perhaps accepted a succession through Catholicism? Would he have expected it to come through dissenters?

    This question is not designed to debate the merits of Gill's beliefs, but to find what he did believe on the subject. Thanks.
  2. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp New Member

    Aug 27, 2002
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    Brother Vaughn,

    Obviously Gill was a successionist, as were most Baptists - Calvinist and non-Calvinist alike - up until the latter 19th century. Here is a similar statement attributed to CHARLES SPURGEON:

    "We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the reformation, we were reformers before Luther and Calvin were born; we never came from the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the apostles themselves. We have always existed from the days of Christ, and our principles, sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which may travel under ground for a little season, have always had honest and holy adherents."

    A point that needs to be made here is that there have been two kinds of successionists among Baptists.

    1. Those who believe in succession and believe that it is absolutely essential to valid church life. These are they (like myself) who believe that a church cannot come into existence without the authority of a pre-existing church.

    2. Those who believe in succession but do not believe it is absolutely essential to valid church life. These have held that, while there has been a continued succession of churches, that a new church may arise without direct succession from it. Baptist historians which I believe to be in this category are Crosby, Robinson, Benedict, Armitage, Cramp and possibly even John T. Christian.

    Some in this later category have made statements denying the absolute necessity of succession which have been unfairly and unjustly used by the restorations to say that they denied all Baptist succession.

    It seems that I have read a statement by Spurgeon, though I can't locate it right now, where he denied the absolute necessity of uninterupted succession. And yet from the above statement it is clear that he believed that, at least in a general way, Baptists do have a succession from Christ.

    The importance of noting this distinction among the successionists is it excentuates that successionism is not the exclusive property of Landmark Baptists; and that fair minded Baptists who do not believe in it's absolute necessity have yet acknowledge that it exists.

    Mark Osgatharp
  3. imported_J.R. Graves

    Jul 25, 2000
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    Here's some more from John Gill on succession:

    "...I should think the valleys of Piedmont, which lie between France and Italy, are intended, where God has preserved, and continued a set of witnesses to the truth, in a succession, from the beginning of the apostacy to the present time, living in obscurity, and in safety, so far as not to be utterly destroyed..." John Gill, GILL'S EXPOSITOR, (London, Matthews & Leigh, 1809), Vol. VIII, p. 691:

    By this quote, it seems Gill looked to the Waldenses of the valleys of Piedmont as having a succession back to the apostles themselves and as holding the same truth as the Baptists held.